Monday, December 17, 2012

Zero Waste Scotland Moves Forward

Zero Waste Scotland Moves Ahead with New Regulations, and Seeks Tenders for an Advisor

Zero Waste Scotland has truly embarked on the journey towards a more sustainable approach to waste and resources, and form now on Waste Management Practices in Scotland will diverge from those in England. Under the measures adopted so far by the UK government recycling rates have continued to rise, volumes of waste being sent to landfill have been declining, and as a society the Scottish population are increasingly aware of the environmental impact of their activities.

Zero Waste Scotland
Zero waste does not mean that households and businesses will not produce waste, they will (although it will be much less than now). It means that close to no waste will be sent to landfill.

The Zero Waste Plan means building on past achievements and making ongoing progress. It has now become central in all strategic planning for waste policy in Scotland. What is more it is a popular policy with wide ranging grass root support. The Zero Waste Plan has been described by its originators as: "achieving the best overall outcomes for Scotland's environment, by making best practical use of the approach in the waste management hierarchy: waste prevention, reuse, recycling and recovery".

In effect, Scotland despite its small population, is leading the way within the UK, in setting a national plan for zero waste, and this brings them into the whole issue of zero waste, zero to landfill, and the zero waste economy - with a bang!

The targets to help them shift the focus up the waste hierarchy, were set-out in the Zero Waste Plan for Scotland, and in essence are:

  • for 70 percent recycling and,
  • only five percent to landfill by 2025 for all waste (which is very ambitious and will require changes which will be felt by every citizen and all businesses.

Zero Waste Scotland will need additional help from consultants to implement their strategy and they have (December 2012) published tender details for the appointment of just such in the TEDs European Tenders database.

To achieve such a large diversion away from landfill they will have to innovate a lot. So the ideas which will be developed range from:

  • investment in plastics recycling to creating a nationwide network of volunteers to getting zero waste into the school curriculum;
  • and from beefing up third sector re-use capacity, to helping councils deliver communications campaigns. 

Food waste collections coupled with the Anaerobic Digestion process is seen as a central platform for removing valuable organic content from the waste, as well.

The Driving Principles of Zero Waste Scotland

The idea is to create an "Accredited Re-use and Repair Network" nationally which will entail embedding a new level of professionalism, quality and customer focus throughout a large number of third sector re-use organisations, with the intention being making it a mainstream option for materials such as furniture, electrical goods, bikes, carpets and building materials.

A Zero Waste Zones scheme will be used to involve the public at communmity level. It is intended that this will inject a competitive element and provide a framework for; "communities, which will include schools, workplaces and other institutional settings as well as local neighbourhoods, to work towards a recognised standard and in the process change how resources are valued by others." (CIWM Magazine 2011.)

This will also require the involvement of all the important economic sectors like food and drink, hospitality and construction.

But this is unlikely to be enough without lots of innovation. They admit that they will need:

  • new product design ideas, 
  • better reprocessing technologies and 
  • comprehensively improved and optimized collection systems.
  • to make big strides in designing out the need for waste to be created in the first place.

Plus, progressively more restrictive landfill bans for certain materials; and it is considering a carbon metric to better reflect environmental impact (or value) than the current tonnage-based system.

Scotland won't be on its own though as the rest of the UK is set to follow the same path to zero waste. Caroline Spelman, the Defra Environment Minister, spoke at Futuresource of the Government working towards a "zero waste economy" and of a "new approach, to waste" which works for the new economy.

According to CIWM's Ben Murphy (CWIM Magazine August 2010), she wants to:
""Unpack" what we mean by zero waste and went on to explain the statement by defining what it isn't. It isn't a saintly society where no waste is produced, but it is one where all resources are fully valued, where consumers make deliberate decisions about waste prevention and in which we change behaviour to better reflect the top of the hierarchy."

Northern Ireland,is also aspiring to zero waste. As if he had been colluding with Spelman, he went on to mention maximizing the use of resources, a more sustainable and dynamic economy and behaviour change.

The Welsh Assembly Government launched its municipal sector plan "Towards Zero Waste" in June 2010,
making a clear statement on the subject. Full "zero waste" to landfill will not be met until 2050 and that, the assembly report tells us, will be achieved:

" more efficient use of resources and waste prevention, while building a sustainable environment and a more prosperous and fair society."

However, all this is complicated to explain to the public and there is a great deal of concern that as the process will take close to 30 years to complete it may be seen as failing, so it is important to stress the ideas contained in a report from ZeroWIN, an industrial network project funded by the EC, in which it condenses the essence of the zero waste mission, which all those involved should strive to keep in mind, as:

"...[recognition] that zero waste is a target to be strived for, not an absolute, and it is possible that landfill or incineration may ultimately be the best option for a very small number of wastes".

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